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Too many sources?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by srnitz86, Dec 16, 2010.

  1. srnitz86

    srnitz86 Guest

    So, obviously everyone says a good story should have at least three sources. But I have a question. Is there such thing as too many sources? I'm working on a feature right now and I talked to a bunch of people and they all bring something that adds to the story. But does quoting six people bring the story down?
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Depends on the topic, the length and all that. You quote 10 people in a 20-inch story, you've probably overdone it.
  3. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that you are interviewing people for "quotes." You are interviewing people for information around which you can build a good story. Yes, you can overdo it because of the opportunity cost of conducting interviews for a single story. Time is finite, particularly in daily newspaper work (as opposed to books and magazines, where you have more time to follow dead ends). That being said, in theory you can't overdo it, because every person you speak with has the potential to add something to your piece.

    Just don't feel obligated to quote every one of them.

    Always remember that you are collecting information, not quotes. Some of the biggies in the business quote sparsely, if at all.
  4. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member


    Home coach ...

    I'm drawing a blank on the other two.
  5. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    Note the part where they said "feature," Rick.
  6. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Oh. Home coach and player featured. Does the reporter's "I" count as a third?
  7. srnitz86

    srnitz86 Guest

    It's a feature on a record-setting college football game from 20 years ago, and right now I'm at 1,080 words.
  8. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse Member

    Another misconception: If someone says it to you, it has to go in the story.
    "'I was happy with our team's play,' coach Soandso said after their 80-32 win," does not have to be included in the story.

    I know that's a side note at best for this thread, but I have writers who don't seem to get that, and it's extremely annoying.
  9. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse Member

    A thought
    What if you kept the actual story a little shorter, and included some of your sources in a bunch of breakout/vignette-type sidebars? That keeps your feature from being too cumbersome, but allows you to include all of those good sources.
  10. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    Do you know what a feature is? It generally doesn't contain the first person.

    And MightyMouse, great idea. Break into sidebars or mugs/quotes.
  11. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Someone didn't get the implied blue font.
  12. Harry Doyle

    Harry Doyle Member

    I think Dick Whitman is completely on the money here. You can overreport in terms of the value of your time, but not in terms of adding to your story. You don't have to quote someone or even attribute what you learn from them. Each interview in a feature, however, should go a long ways to helping you understand that subject. What you learn may be just little tidbits that help shape the subject or, maybe what you learn does little more than help you with your own tone. But the better you know the subject, the better your profile will be. And I would never think 10 sources is too many if I'm trying to put together a quality profile of someone. However, if it's supposed to be a 12-inch inside feature... your time could be better spent playing Scrabble online.
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